Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients Preview

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2013-10-30
Platforms: Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
I also found the new items added to the game to be a bit of a mixed bag. Microchips are one of the biggest new additions, but in practice I barely noticed them. Taking a form similar to gems in Diablo and Torchlight, these are add-ons that can be inserted into items, provided they have a free slot. Some chips give very small benefits, such as mild stat boosts, but others might end up upgrading a standard piece of equipment to "legendary" tier material. However, these were so rare to come by that I never once used them, and the only time I ever bothered was with equipment that had chips already pre-installed - a bit disappointing to say the least.

Other new gear includes things like boarding parties used to attack other ships in combat (they operate a bit like persistent status effects), and swarm missiles that break off into multiple warheads to chase down enemies. While some of these are fun to play with, and they do integrate naturally into the Drox loot economy, I also didn't really find myself blown away by the additions or find myself aching to use any of them - for me, my old stand-bys of mines and viruses that I used in the base game worked just fine, and I couldn't see a compelling reason to change over.

Added Features

There are a few more features worth talking about in Invasion of the Ancients. First, there's a brand-new race called the Scavenger, who are effectively survivalists that are willing to integrate their human-like forms with every bit of technology they can find in order to stay alive - and yes, you can play as them for some different starting bonuses if you so choose.

Second, there are now persistent sectors available, which allow you to carry over some characteristics of one game into another. For instance, if the Dryad ended up dominating one game then they'll return in the next with some starting benefits. I experimented with this feature a bit, but found I actually preferred turning it off after a while, since I found games to get a little bit more formulaic with the option switched on.

The last new big feature added are Drox Guild quests. The Drox Guild was, in the base game, very passive and only really window dressing for the gameplay, but in Invasion of the Ancients they will set a number of optional requirements for compleing a sector that can result in bigger bonuses once you've one. For instance, they might order you to dominate the entire sector through force, get two races to ally with each other, and so on. These can definitely direct the way you play, if you want them to, but I often found the requests to be somewhat arbitrary and impossible to solve simply due to how the different races progressed as the game went on.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Invasion of the Ancients just as I did with the base Drox Operative game. But, I'm not sure that has a lot to do with the new content, or simply because it's been some time since I last played the game. To be sure, the new additions are nice, but it's worth repeating that this expansion is very much a traditional add-on rather than something that is going to completely overhaul the game.

I must admit, I was slightly disappointed that some existing issues from Drox Operative still existed. For example, the marriage of a 4X game and an action-RPG is still novel, but sometimes I found that I would completely missed out on certain events simply because I was busy fighting enemies at the time, and then had no good way to refer to what I'd missed. The user interface is also a little rough, still, and I find myself missing some convenience features at times, like the ability to choose to sell all information or technology to a race with a single click. These are the kinds of things an expansion could have smoothed out a bit, but such changes are nowhere to be seen in Invasion of the Ancients.

Again, as these impressions are based on a preview build, there's a very real chance that some of my issues, most notably with the somewhat underwhelming invasion feature, will be improved upon. Indeed, Soldak made major changes to Drox Operative during the time I was previewing the original game, including new victory conditions, so there's no reason to expect they won't be taking player feedback into account this time.

For those who are still playing Drox Operative and still want more of it, Invasion of the Ancients is a safe buy - and at $10 USD, it's very affordable (though, it's worth noting, half the price of the base game itself). Ultimately, Invasion of the Ancients gave me a chance to go back and put a few dozen more hours into Drox Operative and see some new things along the way, and it's hard to complain too much about that. Those who want more dramatic changes to Drox Operative, though, may want to wait and see how this expansion develops over the next few months.